JARVIS TO FIGHT FOR WEC SEAT AS AS AUDI QUITS
German giant backs out of Le Mans and World Endurance
British ace Oliver Jarvis will seek to remain in the FIA World Endurance Championship next season, even if it means severing his ties with Audi Sport.
Jarvis has been part of Audi’s full-time WEC roster for the last two seasons, and this year sits third in the championship alongside Audi R18 e-tron quattro teammates Lucas di Grassi and Loic Duval.
There are two races left – at Shanghai, China and then the season finale in Bahrain later this month – and they will form Audi Sport’s final foreseeable LMP1 outings after the German firm announced last week that it would wind up its sportscar programme at the end of this season.
Jarvis, 32, said that the announcement came as a shock to the system, and has left him assessing his options to remain on the grid for 2017. Jarvis’s current factory driver deal with Audi Sport expires at the end of this season.
“Personally, this has come at the very worst time,” said Jarvis. “This year it feels like things have clicked for myself, Lucas and Loic and the entire number eight car crew. We had a string of bad luck last year, but this season we got that breakthrough win at Spa [round two] and we’ve been challenging in each round since. It’s such a shame that we won’t get that third year together when I feel we really could have gone for the Le Mans win and tried to dominate the championship.
“The news was a real shock, and we were told formally about two hours before the press release went out. But we knew something wasn’t right. The biggest shock was the immediacy of it ending this year, as all of the rumours suggested we had another season and the
team were already well down the line with development of next year’s car. Now that’s all for nothing.”
Jarvis is now left seeking a race seat for next season. With Audi downscaling much of its motorsport activities for 2017, he has slim pickings should he be able to remain with the Ingolstadt marque. Jarvis has been part of Audi’s works motorsport programme since he joined the DTM in 2008.
“The next step will be about sitting down and seeing what’s available and what suits me best, but my options are massively narrowed at Audi in terms of what they can offer,” saidjarvis.
“For me, I have fought for so long to get to the top of the WEC, and I love the championship. It’s home to the best drivers and cars out there, so naturally I want to stay racing here and at Le Mans. There may be a possibility of a GT programme with Audi somewhere, but my focus is on staying in the WEC. I’ve had nine amazing years at Audi, and I’ve felt privileged to be part of the family for every one. But if I have to look elsewhere to continue my career then I will.
“The World Endurance Championship will survive without Audi. Sure, it’s a massive blow when a brand that big bows out, but there’s still two big manufacturers there [Porsche and Toyota] and new ones like BMW coming into the GT class in 2018. Hopefully one door can shut and another can open for me as I feel I’ve proven myself at this level. Manufacturers come and go, and it’s a matter of putting yourself in the right places to stay on the radar, and that’s what I have to do again now.”
Formula E focus
Audi’s withdrawal has been prompted by its parent company, the VolkswagenAudi Group, bracing itself for sizeable financial penalties in the wake of the road car emissions scandal.
A second contributing factor is the decline in sales of turbo-diesel engines across Europe, with some countries also coming under political pressure to ban the powertrains entirely by the year 2030.
Together with the downscaling of motorsport budgets, Audi has seen a chance to refocus its racing activities around electric cars. The firm is due to launch a range of electric road cars from 2018.
As such Audi will focus on its Formula E partnership with the Team Abt Schaeffler squad, which would require less investment and resource, freeing some of the Audi technical department to move on to road car development.
Audi chairman Rupert Stadler said: “We’re going to contest the race for the future on electric power. As our production cars are becoming increasingly electric, our motorsport cars, as Audi’s technology spearheads, have to be even more so.”
Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, who has led Audi Sport Team Joest for the last 18 years, added: “After 18 years in prototype racing that were exceptionally successful, it’s obviously extremely hard to leave. Audi Sport Team Joest shaped the WEC during this period like no other team. I would like to express my thanks to our squad, Reinhold Joest and his team, to the drivers, partners and sponsors for this extremely successful cooperation. It’s been a great time.”
Audi remains committed to DTM, although each marque in the series has agreed to run six cars rather than eight next year. There has been no decision on its support of Mattias Ekstrom’s World Rallycross Championshipwinning EKS team. However, Audi
has not ruled out expanding its World Rallycross Championship programme beyond just the single team. Much of that would hinge on the development of electrified RX cars in the future though.
Toyota Gazoo Racing has also issued a statement confirming that it remains committed to its LMP1 programme, despite Audi’s withdrawal and its own impending World Rally Championship attack.
The Toyota team, which accelerated development on a new turbocharged 2.4-litre engine for the WEC this year, said: “We are preparing for 2017 when we will return with the target of winning Le Mans and the world championship. We will miss Audi, which has been a strong and sportsmanlike competitor and has helped to establish the WEC as one of the fastest-growing, most innovative championships in motorsport.”
Porsche had confirmed its LMP1 programme was guaranteed until 2018, with company bosses suggesting the firm was thinking even longer term.
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